The Duke of Edinburgh: From Military Man to Gaffe-Prone Eccentric

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To say he’s courted controversy would be to undersell the unique talents of the Duke of Edinburgh, who has offended with such consistency that one has to wonder how much of his output is simply old-world points of view, and how much is just knowing indifference. Here we take a look back at the life of the Duke of Edinburgh, including his penchant for the controversial, which, sadly to some, will be increasingly diminished following his recent retirement from public appearances.

Born into war

Philip was born during war between Turkey and his home country, Greece. King Constantine I, his uncle, was made to abdicate from the throne; Prince Andrew, Philip’s father, was placed under arrest. Under threat of death the family fled, evacuated by a British navy vessel, with Philip reportedly carried away in a basket made of an old fruit box. They settled in France before Philip was schooled in the UK. He eventually moved to the UK permanently, and when he was 18 he joined the Navy.

At the time, he was already in correspondence with the then Princess Elizabeth, who was just 13 at the time, and his second cousin once removed. Despite these minor setbacks, a romance blossomed, and they were married in 1947. Prince Philip gave up his royal titles of Greece and Denmark, and took on the name Mountbatten after his grandparents, eventually become Duke of Edinburgh. He was famously put out when this name was seemingly rejected by the Queen in later years, as she chose instead to take the name Windsor forward for their child. On the subject, he commented that he was just ‘a bloody amoeba’.

Despite the military influence in his life, military institutions were never spared the sting of his tongue. Famously he denounced counselling for the military, stating that he never had it, and ‘just got on with it’; he insulted a female sea cadet by asking her if she worked at a strip club, and he once lost his temper with an RAF photographer at an event marking the anniversary of the Battle of Britain, being heard to utter ‘just take the f***ing picture.’ One wonders if a genuinely hard life in the military, followed by a comfortable one in the public eye, rather took all the highs and lows away, and left Prince Philip having to make his own entertainment.

International man

For a man whose early life included living in many countries and experiencing many cultures, amongst them Denmark, Greece and France, Prince Philip remained stubbornly unable to think well of certain countries. He famously said that the Cantonese would eat anything that swims but isn’t a submarine; he made comments about students in China staying there too long and becoming ‘slitty eyed’, and he implied, when talking to students who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea, that they were lucky not to have been eaten by cannibals. His gaffes become so frequent that they seemed to lose the element of surprise. As he got older he seemed to get yet more devil-may-care, commenting that a young female police officer looked like a suicide bomber, and that Princess Anne wasn’t interested in anything that didn’t fart or eat hay. Philip also playfully asked a disabled mobility scooter user how many people he had run over.

Romance is dead

There has been so much coverage of Prince Philip’s gaffes that it’s hard not to simply list them all consecutively, but there is a relationship in his life that has given him more substance than the two-dimensional racist he is often portrayed as. He and Queen Elizabeth have had their ups and downs, but they are still the most visible royal couple in the world. The two are related through Philip’s maternal connection to Queen Victoria on his mother’s side, and through Elizabeth’s direct paternal lineage to Victoria via her father. It perhaps doesn’t seem like a perfect foundation for a relationship, but of course so many royal bloodlines are overlapping that it is not uncommon.

The two recently celebrated their 70th anniversary, and they have had moments that are genuinely heart-warming. After their engagement in 1947 there was a series of photos taken that really capture their young love. You can see very clearly that they are besotted with each other. The cynicism hadn’t yet crept in; cynicism that would later cause Philip to shout down at the queen when she was making a public appearance – “Yak yak yak. Get a move on would you?”

Another moment from history is captured in a photo – the two of them dancing at a square dance held for them in Ottowa, Canada. As hard as it is to believe, the Duke of Edinburgh is dancing with the queen, wearing checked shirt and heavy denim jeans, looking not unlike a 1950s greaser. Of course, Canada and Prince Philip are more commonly associated for another his various gaffes. At the grand opening of an annex in Vancouver, the Prince forgot what he was opening, declaring ‘it gives me great pleasure to declare this thing open, whatever it is’.

Being royalty isn’t all about grace and money as Prince Philip shows us. There is room for ill-considered remarks and general offensiveness as well. If this makes you think you might be able to make the grade and become a royal, then check out Here you can purchase genuine titles to augment your good name, and then have them legitimately added to various legal documents to finalise your new found royal status. Just remember that if you fail to tow the line you may get retired from public appearances – although this may not be until you reach your 90s.

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